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Taco Bell to respond to ND letter

Claire Heininger | Monday, April 19, 2004

A spokesperson for Yum! Brands Inc., owner of Taco Bell – the restaurant chain whose marketing relationship with Notre Dame’s athletic department has prompted 126 students to go on a hunger strike – promised Friday that the University’s general counsel would receive a prompt response to its inquiries about the fairness of Taco Bell’s labor practices.According to vice president and general counsel Carol Kaesebier, the company spokesperson said the letter initially sent to Yum! Brands on March 5 never reached its intended recipient, said . After learning of the confusion, Kaesebier e-mailed another copy of the letter and was told to expect a reply Monday or Tuesday. “If there was some miscommunication, I think we’re back on track now,” Kaesebier said.Holding to the general counsel’s initial commitment, Kaesebier said the University will await Taco Bell’s response before making any judgments about renewing the contract, which has come under fire of late from members of the Progressive Student Alliance. Twenty-one students in PSA declared a three-day hunger strike Tuesday night, demanding a public statement from University President Father Edward Malloy that Notre Dame would not renew its contract with Taco Bell and that the University would begin providing only Fair Trade coffee in both dining halls. While that group ended their fasts on Friday evening at a protest outside the Taco Bell at Lafayette Boulevard and LaSalle Street, 126 students in total have pledged to fast for 1-, 2-, and 3-day increments.Brigitte Gynther, a PSA member whose hunger strike began Sunday night, said she was encouraged by the exchange between Kaesebier and Yum! Brands.”It seems like all of the information is better assimilated,” she said. “Everyone’s in a position to realize this is serious.”She said that after “months and months” of meeting with the general counsel, the PSA decided to accelerate their efforts, including a mass-delivery of letters to Malloy’s office Wednesday that led to a meeting with Counselor to the President Father Peter Jarret.Jarret, now the group’s official liaison to Malloy, is also scheduled to meet with Gynther and four to five more of the students today.Melody Gonzalez, another PSA member who has been vocal throughout the exchange, said the group had prepared responses to Taco Bell’s previous arguments in the event that Taco Bell responds to the University by the time the students meet with Jarret. “We’re just hoping to take them as much information as they need,” Gonzalez said, adding that the students plan to stick to the original terms for ending the hunger strike.”We feel like [Kaesebier] has done her job,” she said. “The ultimate power to make the decision lies with Father Malloy.”